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Why does checking into a flight online take 9 steps? February 14, 2010

Dear Virgin America,

I know you're just a airline company, so you probably don't know much about user interface design, or the principle of making common operations easy to do. But it took 9 steps to check into my flight on virginamerica.com

Here they are (let it serve as a lesson to all us web designers).

Step 1: Click "Check-In" from an email

First, you send me a friendly reminder of my flight the day before. It has a handy "Check-In" button, which I click...

Step 2: Sign In

Do I really have to sign in? I'm clicking on a url that YOU gave me, and using a computer that I've signed in from before. Maybe you could put a verification code in the url?

Actually, my last name was already in the url [not shown]. At a minimum, maybe you could fill in that login form for me? Sigh.

Step 3: Select your flight

You know which flight I want to check into!
  • It's the one you told me about in your email...
  • It's the one that's taking off in less than 24 hours...
  • It's the only flight I have scheduled.

Step 4: Click "Check-In" (if you can find it)

Why isn't there a giant flashing button that say "Would you like to Check-In?" Instead, I have to look all over the screen for a tiny grey link. (See how long it takes you to find it.)

Step 5: Click "Check-In" [part 2]

Oh I see, when I clicked "Check-In" you weren't sure which flight I'd like to check into. Hmm, let's see here... which flight do I check into... Oh yeah, the only flight I am able to check into.

Step 6: Click "Check-In" [part 3]

Okay, so far I've told you that I want to check-in to this flight two times, and now you're not sure if I want to check into my departing flight (that I flew on yesterday), or my return flight.

Thanks for making me have to search all over the page, and scroll down for the "Check-In for Return Flight Only" button.

Step 7: Select Travel Options

Now you want to sell me on your "Clubhouse" and "First Class Lounging". Thanks but no thanks. I think I'll click on "Express Check-In" instead. (I'd hate to think what the Non-Express Check-In process is like.)

Step 8: Print All Boarding Passes

Woo-hoo! Check-In is complete!

... But guess what I want to do now? Print my boarding passes! Don't most passengers who Check-In online want to do this? Doesn't this save you guys money, so don't you want to encourage this? So why is this another step?

Step 9: Click "Print"

Now I have to click that little "Print" link at the top right, and then again click "Print" on my print control screen.

How to Make Your Site Better

The basic principle that was violated is that common tasks should be easy to do. For someone who has purchased a flight, the most common task is to check-in and print their boarding pass.

When I click "Check-In" on that email, I would like to see something like:

"Ready for your 7:30pm flight to Los Angeles?"

And clicking that button should actually check me in, and take me to a page that has the boarding passes on it:

With Love,

P.S. I still love flying with Virgin America. Seriously. You guys rock. :)
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